International Hydrographic Organization

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The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is an international body representing the hydrographic community.



The IHO was originally established in 1921 as the International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB). The present name was adopted in 1970 as a result of a revised international agreement among member nations. However, the former name International Hydrographic Bureau was retained for the IHO's administrative body of three Directors and a small staff at the organization's headquarters in Monaco.

During the 19th century, many maritime nations established hydrographic offices to provide means for improving the navigation of naval and merchant vessels by providing nautical publications, nautical charts, and other navigational services. There were substantial differences in hydrographic procedures charts, and publications. In 1889, an International Marine Conference was held at Washington, D.C., and it was proposed to establish a "permanent international commission." Similar proposals were made at the sessions of the International Congress of Navigation held at St. Petersburg in 1908 and again in 1912.

In 1919 the hydrographers of Great Britain and France cooperated in taking the necessary steps to convene an international conference of hydrographers. London was selected as the most suitable place for this conference, and on 24 July 1919, the First International Conference opened, attended by the hydrographers of 24 nations. The object of the conference was "To consider the advisability of all maritime nations adopting similar methods in preparation, construction, and production of their charts and all hydrographic publications; of rendering the results in the most convenient form to enable them to be readily used; of instituting a prompt system of mutual exchange of hydrographic information between all countries; and of providing an opportunity to consultations and discussions to be carried out on hydrographic subjects generally by the hydrographic experts of the world." This is still the major purpose of IHO.

As a result of the conference, a permanent organization was formed and statutes for its operations were prepared. The IHB, now the IHO, began its activities in 1921 with 18 nations as members. The Principality of Monaco was selected because of its easy communication with the rest of the world and also because of the generous offer of Albert I, Prince of Monaco to provide suitable accommodations for the Bureau in the Principality.


The principal work undertaken by the IHO is: ·To bring about a close and permanent association between national hydrographic offices. ·To study matters relating to Hydrography and allied sciences and techniques. ·To further the exchange of nautical charts and documents between hydrographic officers of member governments. ·To tender guidance and advice upon request, in particular to countries engaged in setting up or expanding their hydrographic service. ·To encourage coordination of hydrographic surveys with relevant oceanographic activities. ·To extend and facilitate the application of oceanographic knowledge for the benefit of navigators. ·To cooperate with international organizations and scientific institutions which have related objectives.

The IHO sets forth hydrographic standards to be agreed upon by the member nations. All member states are urged and encouraged to follow these standards in their surveys, nautical charts, and publications. As these standards are uniformly adopted, the products of the world's hydrographic and oceanographic offices become more uniform. Much has been done in the field of standardization since the Bureau was founded.

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